Aging Issues Now at the Forefront

Reach out, change the world, and spread the love! It's a tall order. But with more than 312,000 older adults in King County alone, it's not impossible. Add in younger Baby Boomers, and we are a force to be reckoned with!

Governor Jay Inslee recognized Washington state's demographic "age wave" when he called his recent Aging Summit. Recommendations from the Summit fall into four broad categories:

  • Livable Communities—including affordable and appropriate housing, supportive services, mobility options, social and civic engagement, Universal Design, Complete Streets, and social and civic engagement
  • Financial Security—including financial literacy/empowerment, retirement savings accounts, pension protection, guardianship support, and prevention of financial exploitation
  • Health Care-Healthy Aging—including disease prevention, management of chronic health conditions, Alzheimer's care, falls prevention, end-of-life planning, and culturally competent services
  • Long Term Services and Supports—ensuring a "safety net" of home- and community-based services for vulnerable older adults and individuals with disabilities, including Medicaid, expanded Aging and Disability Resource Center services, expanded caregiver support programs, and a fully competent and well-compensated workforce

Cathy Knight, state director of the Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging, took notes during one of the discussions at the Governor's Aging Summit. Click on the image to watch a video about the event.

It's exciting to see aging issues presented in terms of community sustainability. Of course, the devil's in the details, so to speak. As the Governor's Aging Summit report states, "Washington should pursue short- and long-term approaches to bringing in additional resources to finance long-term services and supports." Financing this agenda takes political will—and that starts with you and me.

We need to let Governor Inslee and our state legislators know what we support before they develop budget proposals and policy changes. We need to monitor the work of the new Joint Executive-Legislative Committee on Aging and Disability and ensure that its members hear our voices.

Too often we wait until January to talk about issues under consideration by Washington state lawmakers. Many of us believe legislative action is due even sooner, to address community issues that ensure economic survival, like transportation funding. As this newsletter goes to print, there is talk of a possible fall legislative session but one has not been scheduled.

The Washington State Senior Citizens' Foundation (dubbed the "Senior Lobby") held its annual statewide conference on October 18. Issues included consumer protection and fraud abuse, health care implementation, the Governor's Aging Summit recommendations, protection of vulnerable adults, mental health services, and the impact of immigration reform on seniors. I encourage you to read about legislative issues on the Senior Lobby website and to consider participating in Senior Lobby Day during the 2014 legislative session.

Similar issues were discussed the previous day at the annual Washington Association of Area Agency on Aging/State Council on Aging conference. I was proud of Aging and Disability Services planner Karen Winston, who served as a panelist and stressed the importance of inclusive outreach and public engagement, citing the City of Seattle's good work in this area. Read her article ("A Call for More Inclusive Outreach and Public Engagement") in this issue.

In this issue, you'll also find an article by Cheri Perazzoli, vice-president of the Hearing Loss Association of Washington and founder of Let's Loop Seattle ("Too Many People with Hearing Loss Miss Out"). Please read her call to action as well. Hearing loss affects every single one of us at some level.

Support and funding for all the issues mentioned in this newsletter are so important. Please read every article, and then reach out to family members, friends, neighbors, acquaintances—even people you don't know—to ask for their involvement. We need to contact our legislators and let them know what we care about. Many issues can also be addressed by local elected officials—mayors and city and county council members.

It's not hard to advocate for support. For tips, visit the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services' Advocacy Committee Tools, part of our larger Advisory Council toolkit.

—Tony Provine, Chair
Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services